Thomas Day Piece to be Installed in N.C. Governor’s Mansion Feb. 28


A ca. 1845 china press crafted by African-American master cabinetmaker Thomas Day will be the first piece by the celebrated craftsman to be installed in the North Carolina Executive Mansion.

The china press will be presented to First Lady Kristin Cooper by N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton at an event scheduled for 3:15 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the Executive Mansion.

“The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is honored to donate this china press to the Executive Mansion collection in recognition of Thomas Day’s invaluable contribution to decorative arts in North Carolina,” said Secretary Hamilton.

The piece was crafted by Day for the Jones family of Bachelor’s Hall, a large tobacco plantation near Danville, Virginia, and was recently acquired by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The china press will be placed in the mansion’s first floor library.

Thomas Day, a cabinetmaker by trade, is the most celebrated of North Carolina’s antebellum craftsmen. He was born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, in 1801 to a family of free, landowning African Americans. Day moved to Milton, N.C. in 1821. He became a highly successful businessman and could be considered the father of North Carolina’s furniture industry.

In his almost 40 years in Milton, Thomas Day built an extraordinary business, employing freedmen and enslaved men to craft stock lines of furniture and to fill custom orders for furniture and interior woodwork. By 1850, Day had the largest cabinetry shop in North Carolina. He is believed to have died in about 1861, after having suffered financial losses due to the national panic of 1857. His home and workshop are now a private, non-profit historic site in Milton.

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources currently has the largest collection of Thomas Day pieces in the world. Some of his work is on public display at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.